Little Tokens: The Matchbox

The matchbox is solid in hand, made of metal, and cool to the touch. There are bits missing from the enamel inlay, like someone kept the matchbox in their purse, knocking around with their keys, little turquoise crumbs disappearing to mingle with the lint and crumbs. A boy gave the matchbox to my sister, and eventually, she gave it to me. Gifting was common in the economy of our sisterhood. I can’t remember how old I was, or where we were when this matchbox passed ownership. I remember feeling surprised, and lucky that I was in possession of such a beautiful object. The muted colors, the delicate metal of the cloissoné, the tea-stained paper cardboard drawer, where the matches would go. It was old, and beautiful, and special—all things I longed for as a child growing up in a place where everything felt cookie-cutter and commonplace.

There are no matches in the box anymore. Instead, there’s an old bracelet, strung with plastic beads, the leather cord severed. I often forget that this is there, and yet just seeing it tugs at me. It’s a much older relic of our sister-friendship. Ate* made it at a church summer  camp, I think, and gave it to me one afternoon when she got home. My four-year-old self’s favorite bead was the mauve butterfly that also served to tighten the bracelet around my wrist. The bracelet made me think of Ate; it made me feel safe and loved.

I never took off the bracelet—at least, not until the cord broke. As a child, I was devoted to Ate. I loved to sit in her room and look at the beautiful and fascinating things on her shelves: a wooden jewelry box, a graceful statue of Bastet, a to-scale model of an X-wing starfighter. Even better were her sketchbooks. The pages were thick and warped with ink and paint, paper scraps and tape. I think my favorite art always reminds me of those pieces.

This bracelet-in-a-matchbox is a tiny reliquary, for my sister and me.

*Pronounced “AH-tay.” A title given to older sisters in Filipino families.

About four years, I moved cross-country, only bringing with me what I could fit in half of my car (the other half was reserved for my road trip companion, but that’s a story for another time). It was difficult leaving behind things that were meaningful to me, so I compromised with myself and decided to bring a small collection of things smaller than my palm as tokens to remind me of what I was leaving behind. This series is about those tokens. 


Book Thoughts: The Sacred Journey

The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days

By Frederick Buechner

HarperSanFrancisco, 1982

Paperback (a thin volume), with pages of a nice weight. Bends easily in hand.

On the first page… “How do you tell the story of your life—of how you were born, and the world you were born into, and the world that was born in you?” Continue reading

Star Trek Sing-Along!

I love a good TV show intro. As I get more and more invested in the characters and the story, the intro becomes emotionally charged in the best way. The music, the visuals—they start to embody my anticipation, and they get me ready for the episode.

The whole thing is a ritual, really. It’s like praying before dinner, or the call to worship at church. The show’s intro prepares me for what’s next, giving me time to get into the right mindset. Continue reading

WeekendCoffeeShare: Valuing Small Talk

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about the conversation I just had with my grandma. She lives in the midwest, and I haven’t seen her since my wedding almost two years ago. We chatted on the phone about the weather, what’s going on in her garden, and the family reunion that’s been planned for July. It was small talk, more or less. I’ve heard so many people bemoan small talk, but I’ve come to value it over the years. Continue reading

WeekendCoffeeShare: Mother’s Day…

If we were having coffee, we’d be sitting around my dinner table, morning light drifting through the window. I’d offer you some cream, and we’d munch on toast with jam, the seeds in the bread sticking to our fingers. I’d take a sip from my purple mug, and tell you that I was unsettled by Mother’s Day this year, but not for the reasons you might expect. Continue reading

Plan your heart out.

It’s been eight months since I started by far the most interesting job I’ve ever had. I never imagined that I’d get to travel to over 35 cities and towns all over the United States, flying about 30,000 miles, but that’s what I did starting in September of last year. I’ve been recruiting students for my alma mater, where I earned my master’s degree, and it’s been an experience like no other. There was a two-month period where I was on the road almost every week, with two to four days in between to recuperate at home with my husband. Looking back, I’m asking myself, how did I do that? Continue reading


Uncertainty is my life right now. One of my favorite ways of dealing with it is sinking into the tranquil moments of my routine: Get home from work. Put away my bag. Change into comfy clothes. Make the bed. Tidy up. And then my favorite part – dinner.

When I’m really feeling the stress of uncertainty, I like to make hearty and simple food. Today, it was Continue reading